Longwall Mining

Hislop, James ; Erickson, Carl
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 11
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION As practiced today, longwall mining is a mechanical version of an established mining system. The equipment for longwall mining consists of four basic units: roof supports, face conveyor, winning or mineral-getting ma¬chine, and stage-loader conveyor. The system mines relatively thin slices of mineral across a predetermined face length in a virtually continuous sequence. As the winning machine cuts, the mineral is loaded automatically onto the face conveyor. In turn, the face conveyor is pushed over into the newly cut track by hydraulic rams attached to the conveyor and the roof supports. The roof supports then are lowered individu¬ally from the roof, advanced to the repositioned con¬veyor, and reset to the roof. At the end of the pass, the longwall cutter is pushed over, and a slice is taken in the opposite direction, so the system repeats itself. Fig. I illustrates a typical longwall mining system. The principle behind the longwall mining system is that the roof is supported only immediately adjacent to the worked seam, keeping the blocks of immediate roof clamped securely from the face to the rear of the sup¬ports. At the rear of the supports, the roof is allowed to fall and break up, with the swell of the broken material eventually establishing an equilibrium in the strata be¬hind the mined area. Fig. 2 illustrates the principle of longwall support. There are two distinct types of longwall mining. The longwall retreating system is the most common in the United States, South Africa, and Australia. The longwall advancing system is the most common in the re¬maining industrialized countries such as Britain, Ger¬many, Poland, and the Soviet Union. The longwall retreating system comprises a mining panel, where the roadways that form the head entry (end at which mineral is delivered from the face con¬veyor to a stage-loader conveyor) and the tail entry are predriven before the longwall units starts production. In the longwall advancing system, the longwall unit makes the head and tail entries as the face advances, utilizing various techniques to prevent the entries from being destroyed as they are left in a consolidating gob area. Fig. 3 illustrates the comparative approaches of the longwall retreating and advancing operations. As with most other underground mining systems, there are many variations on these two basic systems, using combinations of the systems that are dictated by
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